GU collaborates with Amazon Data Services to encourage transparency in civil courts


Georgetown University has launched a data collective in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to improve fairness in the civil justice system, especially in light of the expiration of the national moratorium on evictions.

Georgetown has partnered with AWS and uses its strategy of “working backwards”, or working from the customer’s perspective to understand a problem and develop a solution, to create a “Civil Justice Data Commons”, a collection quantitative demographic and financial data. data from civil courts across the country.

Molly Ropelewski / La Hoya | The Civil Justice Data Commons aims to aggregate data from civil courts in order to promote justice and transparency.

While experts have performed an in-depth analysis of the data on various aspects of criminal justice proceedings, such as demographic trends, there is a serious lack of data on civil cases, according to Amy O’Hara, a research professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy in Georgetown, which pioneered the data collective.

“There is a movement that is trying to improve access to judgments,” O’Hara said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “You don’t see enough articles in the newspapers on consumer debt or evictions because there just isn’t data like there is on the criminal side, and we should try to tackle it to that. “

The goal of the Common Data is to enable local governments across the country to use civil cases data to improve transparency and accountability in civil justice proceedings across the country, according to O’Hara.

“Our hope is that you can look at multiple jurisdictions to see where other interventions have succeeded or failed, and be able to translate that into your area,” O’Hara said.

Going forward, the project team hopes to focus on evictions when it comes to civil matters, especially as the national moratorium on evictions comes to an end, according to Eva Rosen, assistant professor at the McCourt School. .

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act first created a national moratorium on evictions in March 2020. After the initial moratorium expired on July 31, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attempted to reinstate the expulsion break with an order of 3 August. The renewal was then blocked by the Supreme Court on August 26, leaving around 3.5 million people at risk of deportation.

In October 2020, Rosen and Brian McCabe, associate professor of sociology at the

College at Georgetown, compiled data from the Washington, DC court system to track eviction cases and formal evictions from 2014 to 2018 as part of a separate project.

The report of their findings found that one in nine DC tenants are affected by the eviction process, and a high concentration of evictions occurs in wards 7 and 8, where many black and low-income residents live. .

“With housing instability and evictions concentrated in predominantly black neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8, tackling housing inequality is a central issue for racial justice in Washington, DC,” The report.

Wards 7 and 8 only make up a quarter of rentals across DC, but they account for nearly 57% of evictions, according to the report.

The team is working to collect data available under public records laws; however, data collections tend to be disaggregated and difficult to sift through, according to O’Hara.

“We’re trying to make it easier to access data so that you can do quantitative research and access more from multiple courts and multiple years,” O’Hara said.

The project began several years ago, when McCourt interviewed people in the legal field to see where there was a need for a public data pool. However, the team initially did not have a clear goal to inform their vision for accessible data, O’Hara said.

However, now that they’ve implemented the “Working Backwards” strategy, the team can think critically about what data would be most valuable and how to present it, according to O’Hara.

“Working Backwards helps you think about how you would approach the problem next in order to create the right solution,” said O’Hara. “So they pushed us and asked us to ask a lot of questions and then find the answers to those questions, which was really helpful when you are considering product design. “

Georgetown’s common data will make it easy for policymakers to collect data on issues such as eviction and possibly enact changes, according to O’Hara.

“Whether you are a nonprofit or a decision maker, being able to see what is happening across the sites and being able to draw conclusions that could inform what you are going to do on the ground is vital,” O said. ‘Hara.

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